23 June 2017

News Story: Filipino Muslims trust MILF, MNLF (Poll)

By Patricia Lourdes Viray

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino Muslims have much trust in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front while they distrust the Abu Sayyaf Group, according to a Social Weather Stations survey released Monday.

The survey conducted from March 25 to 28 showed that the net trusting rating of the MILF was an excellent +74 and the rating of the MNLF was a very good +50 among Muslims.

Catholics, however, have a different perception over the MILF and the MNLF with -42 and -41, respectively. Iglesia ni Cristos also distrust the MILF with a rating of -55 and -56 for the MNLF.

The ASG had a very bad -64 rating among Muslims which is similar to their rating among Catholics (very bad -60), INC (execrable -77) and other religions (execrable -72).

In general, public trust in rebel movements and armed groups has been low in the first quarter of the year.

All rebel movements and armed groups scored negative net trust rating scores (percent much trust minus percent little trust) in the latest survey.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: Remaining Maute positions breached

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
By Roel Pareño

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines  – Government troops have breached the remaining defensive positions of remnants of the Maute terror group in Marawi City, the military announced yesterday.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for Task Force Marawi, said the soldiers have recovered the bodies of several slain terrorists along with their armaments.

He said bodies of civilians were also recovered, but did not say how many.

Herrera said there are still terrorists occupying buildings and mosques in four barangays in the commercial district of Marawi.

The military said the terrorists’ resistance continues to wane and the areas they hold are getting fewer as government security forces press their advance.

Sustained air strikes have also softened the areas held by the terrorists.

Herrera said the troops have cleared 16 buildings and soldiers have entered two more to flush out the terrorists.

Advancing troops have taken control of strategic vantage points in tall buildings, according to Herrera.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: Rody expected to discuss security issue with Widodo

By Alexis Romero

MANILA, Philippines -  President Duterte was expected to discuss security issues with Indonesia President Joko Widodo yesterday as fighting between government troops and militants in Marawi City dragged on to its fifth week.

Duterte told reporters in Cagayan de Oro he would ask Widodo about the Indonesian fighters who fought alongside the Maute group, a band of terrorists aligned with the extremist Middle East-based Islamic State (IS).

“I think most of the foreign fighters were Indonesians,” he added. Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella could not elaborate on the discussion between the two leaders.

“I’m sure they’ll be talking security matters, but we don’t have the details of the plans for that conversation,” Abella said in a press briefing yesterday.

Duterte earlier said he was disappointed that Maranaos allowed IS fighters to enter Marawi City to introduce their extremist ideology.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: NPA taking advantage of Marawi siege — Alejano

New People’s Army (NPA) Rebels
By Jess Diaz

MANILA, Philippines -  A Marine captain-turned-lawmaker accused the New People’s Army (NPA) yesterday of taking advantage of the Marawi City siege by attacking provinces where soldiers have been reassigned to Mindanao.

Rep. Gary Alejano of the party-list group Magdalo said he was condemning the recent NPA attacks in Iloilo, Davao Oriental, Davao City and Compostela Valley.

“Obviously, communist rebels are taking advantage of the crisis in Marawi City. A big chunk of government troops is focused on suppressing terrorism in Mindanao right now,” he said.

He said the NPA is attacking areas vacated by soldiers who have been sent to Marawi.

“It is even more disappointing to note that the attacks happened after the communist group supposedly offered help and a ceasefire in Mindanao to let the government focus on fighting terrorism,” he stressed.

Read the full story at PhilStar

22 June 2017

USA: Nimitz Carrier Strike Group arrives in 7th Fleet

From USS Nimitz Public Affairs

USS Nimitz (CVN 68) transits the Pacific Ocean, June 17, while en route to U.S. 7th Fleet. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Holly L. Herline) >>

PACIFIC OCEAN - The Nimitz Strike Group, consisting of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9 arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, June 21..

While operating on patrol in 7th Fleet, Nimitz is slated to enhance maritime partnerships and promote peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

“Over the past eight months we have been in a pretty intense training environment, which culminated into just a superb performance during COMPTUEX (Composite Training Unit Exercise),” said Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander, CSG 11. “We’re looking forward to working closely with our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific practicing the skills we gained and enhancing relationships within the region. I am so proud of our team. While expectations are high externally, they are even higher internally.”

The U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations spans 48 million square miles from the International Date Line to the Western Indian Ocean.

USA: USS Ronald Reagan departs Singapore after port visit

By MC2 Brandon Martin, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the Singapore Strait, June 21. (U.S. Navy/MCSA Randy Lee Adams II) >>

SINGAPORE STRAIT - The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), departed Singapore June 21 after a scheduled four-day port visit.

Ronald Reagan arrived in Singapore June 17, and Sailors had the opportunity to experience local culture and participated in a variety of command-sponsored projects and tours.

Ronald Reagan’s Command Religious Ministries Department coordinated six projects for Sailors to interact with the local community, including volunteer opportunities at a soup kitchen, a food bank and interacting with early intervention, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten special needs students by helping them with homework and assisting teachers with assignments.

USA: U.S., China Affirm North Korean Threat, Mattis Says

By Lisa Ferdinando 
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he and the top U.S. diplomat affirmed with high-ranking Chinese officials today that North Korea's nuclear missile program is a threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mattis spoke at the State Department with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, after they hosted the first iteration of the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

"We also affirmed our strong commitment to cooperate, including through the U.N. to realize our shared goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Mattis said. "Meanwhile, we will continue to take necessary measures to defend ourselves and our allies."

The dialogue with China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the Chinese joint staff department, is a result of the summit in April between President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, Mattis explained.

News Report: Mattis - US, China Working to Close Gaps on S China Sea, Settle DPRK Nuke Issue

Top American and Chinese officials met on Wednesday to discuss the differences in approaches to the controversial issues of the South China Sea and the Korean peninsula.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Senior officials from the United States and China discussed ways to narrow gaps on the issue of the South China Sea, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday.

"On South China Sea, this is a dialogue where we identified areas where we can work together, and to understand those areas where we have, I would call them, disconnects…. We'll continue to work to close gaps in our understanding and to work in some kind of manner in the future that removes these irritants," Mattis said in a joint news conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

China claims the entire South China Sea region as its own and is engaged in a bitter dispute with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan who also have counter claims. Beijing has built installations at strategically located (Artificial) islands in the region, which is considered to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources.

News Report: Test Imminent? Activity at North Korean Nuclear Site Has US Intelligence Worried

An unusual uptick in activity at North Korea’s underground nuclear testing facilities picked up by US foreign signals intelligence may mean another nuclear test is imminent.

According to Jerusalem Online, Washington is growing concerned that the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will launch yet another test of its nuclear weapons when senior Chinese leaders arrive in Washington for meetings with US leadership on Wednesday.

Just yesterday, US President Donald Trump thanked Beijing for its efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula but noted "it has not worked out." The statement was widely seen as an attempt by Trump to embarrass Chinese President Xi Jinping, Axios reported, for "failing to change Kim Jong-un’s deranged behavior and give him one last chance to fix it… and signaling to the Chinese that they’ve run out of time." 

News Report: Seoul - Pyongyang’s Spy Drone a ‘Clear Military Provocation’

A crashed North Korean Drone found in South Korea in 2014
A camera-equipped drone found crashed on a mountainside in South Korea has been confirmed by Seoul to be an unmanned North Korean military surveillance aircraft.

According to the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), a branch of the South Korean Defense Ministry, the drone is of North Korean manufacture and was deployed from Kumgang County in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on May 2, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The DPRK drone, discovered by a local man on the side of a mountain just over the South Korean border in early June, was thoroughly examined by the South's ADD, which ran detailed reverse-engineering of its camera, motherboard, GPS and other circuitry.